Saturn conjoins Ketu: the calm before the storm?

(15 April 2019) Financial markets appear to be on auto-pilot these days as the grind higher continues.  After its scary Christmas low, the bull market would appear to back on track against a background of easy central bank money (i.e. debt) and the promise of a US-China trade deal that, like Godot, never seems to arrive. The strength of the rebound in the first quarter was not unexpected from the astrological point of view given the extended dominance of Jupiter. 

When Jupiter is strong through alignment with other planets or by sign placement, stocks usually rise.  That was definitely the case as Jupiter aligned with Neptune in January and then with Pluto in February and March.  Jupiter then stationed retrograde last week on April 10 in Sagittarius, a sign in which it does particularly well.  But now that Jupiter is moving backwards towards Scorpio, we may be on the verge of a shift in the terrain. 

If the winter was all about Jupiter, it seems more likely that the spring will be focused on Saturn.  Saturn is the yang to Jupiter's yin and is typically a bearish influence when it is prominent.  The bear may be awakening from hibernation when Saturn turns retrograde on April 30 and begins its annual four-month backward journey through the sky.  While the Saturn retrograde cycle is neither bullish or bearish for stocks, collective sentiment can become more negative if Saturn forms tense alignments with other planets. 

As it happens, this is very much the case here in 2019.  Saturn will turn retrograde while in a very close conjunction with the South Lunar Node. (aka Ketu).  In traditional astrology, both Eastern and Western, Ketu is considered to be an influence that undermines the material world in favour of the spiritual or transcendent realms.  In market terms, Ketu is bearish.  So the question is: what happens when two naturally bearish planets like Saturn and Ketu are in conjunction?

Saturn-Ketu conjunctions: pessimism and the disruption of structures

While markets are not always bearish when these two planets combine, there is a greater risk of declines during the time of their conjunction.  As Saturn conjoins Ketu about once every 11-12 years, this malefic pairing has coincided with some notably negative events.  The last time Saturn conjoined Ketu was in October 2007, right at the time of the market peak before the financial meltdown.  The top of market took place on October 11, while Saturn was conjunct Ketu (True South Node) less than two weeks later on October 23.   Stocks began to weaken under this conjunction and US stocks would eventually fall more than 50% over the next 18 months.  While we certainly wouldn't say it was only because Saturn was aligning with Ketu, it is an appropriately bearish planetary pattern for the start of a recession and a bear market.

The previous Saturn-Ketu conjunction took place in early January 1997.   Stocks were actually pretty flat during the approach and separation of this conjunction.  This is a useful counter example which reminds us that no single factor is enough to determine outcomes.  Each factor therefore becomes necessary, but not sufficient to coincide with a recession or bear market.  Stocks were also mostly flat in the previous conjunction in January 1985.  Actually, the market finally began to rally again after Saturn had begun to separate from Ketu in mid-January.  So we should be aware that there are benign versions of this conjunction that can point to non-bearish outcomes in the markets.

But before that, the Saturn-Ketu conjunction was front and center in the 1973-4 bear market.  Due to the Saturn retrograde cycle, the Saturn-Ketu conjunction occurred twice -- once in September 1973 and then again in February 1974.  Much of the world was in the grip of the Middle East oil embargo, inflation, and deep recession while the US suffered the added burden of the ongoing Watergate scandal which would eventually see President Nixon resign in August 1974.  And yes, history could repeat itself in 2019 with Trump coming under pressure to leave office as Saturn again conjoins Ketu.  Since Saturn symbolizes society's structures and institutions, Ketu's influence undermines them and can bring about sudden changes. 

The parallels with 1973-4 are worth taking seriously since Saturn is also going to have an extended conjunction with Ketu in 2019 because of its retrograde cycle.  Saturn is conjunct with Ketu now and will remain in very close proximity until October.  This means there will be a longer time window for any latent negative sentiment to be triggered by passing alignments with other bad planets, such as Mars.  "Sell in May and go away"?  Or maybe sell in April to beat the rush to the exits.

Just to round out this brief historical survey, it is worth recalling that the preceding Saturn-Ketu conjunction took place at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962.  Stocks fell 7% during the critical period of geopolitical uncertainty of October 16-28 when the world was teetering on the precipice of a nuclear war.

And while the October 1950 conjunction was a nothingburger in terms of stocks (although the Korean War had just begun in June of that year), the previous Saturn-Ketu alignment occurred in late August 1939, less than a week before World War Two began.  As in 1973-4, Saturn would undergo its entire retrograde cycle while in close conjunction with Ketu during the second half of 1939 and into January 1940.  US markets were actually flat-to-positive for much of this Saturn-Ketu period, even if they would eventually go on to lose 40% of their value in the coming two years during the depth of that conflict.

As we can see, not all Saturn-Ketu conjunctions are created equal.  It seems that the ones where Saturn is retrograde and thus the conjunction is extended for a period of months instead of weeks are particularly troublesome.  Since we will experience one of those potentially more damaging extended conjunctions in 2019, I would think the chances for significant declines in stocks are much higher, if not in the April-October period, then in the months following the conjunction period. 

While this doesn't quite qualify as bullet-proof actionable evidence, it should still be a warning to investors who are heavily invested in this bull market rally.  Maybe this really is the calm before the storm. 

Weekly Market Forecast

US stocks have been 'melting higher' over the past two weeks since my last post while other global markets have also stayed fairly buoyant.   It is possible the upward bias may shift toward a more sideways or indecisive markets for a little while here before things begin to fall apart.  This week is shortened for Good Friday and will likely feature some downside.  I think Wednesday's Moon-Mercury opposition could coincide with some selling as Mercury is more vulnerable due to its transit of Pisces, its sign of debilitation.  The nervousness could begin to manifest on Tuesday afternoon, however.  I wouldn't expect too much damage just yet but it may begin to get the attention of some market participants. 

For a more detailed analysis of the markets, please check out my weekly subscriber newsletter which is published every Saturday afternoon (EST).   I outline the key technical and planetary influences for US and Indian stocks for the short and medium term, as well as currencies, gold and oil. 

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